Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Green Ninja: Student Sustainability Video Festival 69

I know I promised to post part II of Part I of When did speculative fiction go 'mainstream'? What the critics think today, but I woke up a bit late and I have tons of papers to grade this evening after the last final of the summer semester, so I don't have time right now.  Instead, I'm doing what I usually do when I have final exams to grade, post installments of the Student Sustainability Video Festival, which I left off with episode 68, Butterflies last January.  Today, I'm resuming the series with Green Ninja: Footprint Renovation.

While a man sleeps, his feet grow to a gigantic size due to the carbon footprint of his home. The Green Ninja - a climate action superhero, is called in to help.
That was my favorite video among those my students showed me that semester, as it was both fun and informative.  My students liked other talks and their videos more.  I'll be showing them later this week and through the weekend to Monday.  As for speculative fiction becoming mainstream, the second installment is half-written.  I might get to it tomorrow, depending on how grading goes.  Otherwise, I'll post it next week.  Stay tuned.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Vox on the Great American Eclipse

I concluded Part I of When did speculative fiction go 'mainstream'? What the critics think with a program note about today.
Tomorrow is the Great American Eclipse.  I can't miss that!
I am suffering from an embarrassment of riches on this topic, as there are eleven videos on the YouTube channels I subscribe to from the past 24 hours alone.  I'm not going to pick any of them.  Instead, I'm embedding two from Vox, beginning with Why a total solar eclipse is such a big deal.

How solar and lunar eclipses work.
That's one of the better videos I've seen explaining eclipses and I've posted a lot of them over the years.

Vox expands on the emotional impact of eclipses in Tales from the shadow of the moon.

Eclipse chasers tell us what it's like to witness a total solar eclipse.
I found that very moving.  While it's not enough to make me drive eight hours each way to view totality today, it will be enough to make me drive an hour (and probably miss work) to see totality south of Toledo, Ohio in April 2024.  Chances are very good that I'll still be here for that.

As for my readers, enjoy the eclipse!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Part I of When did speculative fiction go 'mainstream'? What the critics think

At his new blog Ecosophia, John Michael Greer made several claims about science fiction that I feel inspired to test.  Today, I'm examining the easiest one to verify or falsify, Greer's claim that "science fiction went mainstream in the late 1970s."  He's basing it on the criterion that "tenured academics stopped turning up their noses at 'all that Buck Rogers stuff,' as a handful of the more literary SF authors found their work being reviewed in highbrow periodicals and the genre as a whole found itself afflicted with creeping respectability."  That's a difficult criterion for me to evaluate.  As much as I am becoming an expert on current science fiction in film and television and am starting my project of blogging the Saturn Awards to become better versed in the history of speculative fiction on the large and small screens, I am not yet ready to do this for literary science fiction in the way I think this claim deserves.  To begin with, I do not have the access to an academic library full of literary reviews to examine to see if that indeed began happening then based on identifying the subjects of reviews and counting the relevant ones by year to detect a trend or inflection point.  So, I'll have to do it some other way.  After all, this is a blog entry, not a formal academic paper.

For plan B, I'm citing two articles on the subject, When sci-fi went mainstream from the Los Angeles Review of Books republished in Salon and a review of "The Secret History of Science Fiction" at Tor.com to see if there is an alternative hypothesis about when science fiction "went mainstream" (I'm not disputing that it has; my writing about science fiction and other speculative fiction genres being successful at awards shows demonstrates that has happened).  The first, published in 2012, refers to science fiction's "meteoric rise over the last thirty years from lowbrow genre to literary respectability," placing the beginning of science fiction becoming mainstream about 1972.  The author Lee Konstantinou then writes about how the process really began in 1960 with the publication of "New Maps of Hell" by Kingsley Amis, a series of literary essays about science fiction.  One of Amis's predictions, that "this genre will never make it in film or television," amuses me, as it quite evidently has.  In fact, it already had made it on television with "The Twilight Zone" debuting in 1959.  I won't let that bad prognostication stand in the way of using Amis's book as evidence for an eariler date for the beginning of science fiction's mainstream acceptance.  Konstantinou also cites the early science fiction works of Anthony Burgess, particularly "A Clockwork Orange," published in 1962, as an example of a mainstream novelist finding science fiction a respectable enough genre to write in.  Both examples point to science fiction becoming mainstream before the late 1970s.

"Genre in the mainstream: The Secret History of Science Fiction" also argues that mainstream writers have been writing science fiction since the 1970s and points to an incident in the early 1970s that supports the mainstreaming of the genre then.  The nominees for the 1974 Nebula Award for Best Novel included "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon, a mainstream writer.  It lost, but its mere nomination shows that, not only were mainstream novelists accepting science fiction by writing in the genre, but science fiction writers were beginning to accept them as well.  Again, this is evidence that science fiction was becoming mainstream by the early 1970s, if not earlier.

Having looked at some of the previous studies of when science fiction and other speculative fiction genres becoming mainstream, I now have an alternative claim from Greer's that the mainstreaming of speculative fiction genres started happening by the early 1970s, if not by 1960.  Stay tuned for my testing that hypothesis by using another data series and a slighly different criterion.  On Tuesday, I plan to use the Publishers Weekly lists of bestselling novels in the United States and Lists of The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers to determine when science fiction and other speculative fiction genres became mainstream from the perspective of the book-buying public instead of the critics.  Why Tuesday?  Tomorrow is the Great American Eclipse.  I can't miss that!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Scaramucci gets his wish as Bannon departs the White House

I originally had the Woodward Dream Cruise as the subject of today's post.  In fact, "Dream Cruise 2017" was the working title of today's post on my schedule.*  I'm not feeling it, as there are far more important things going on than what I call "dopamine returned on gasoline invested."  I'll let Stephen Colbert set up one of them in Anthony Scaramucci Would Fire Steve Bannon.

Front-stabber Anthony Scaramucci believes Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon has his own motives.
Colbert: "Do you think Bannon will be out in a week?"  Scaramucci: "If it were up to me."  That's interesting.  Hold that thought, as Scaramucci had more to say in Anthony Scaramucci Doesn't Like Bannon's 'Toleration' Of White Supremacists.

Ex-White House Communication Director Anthony Scaramucci renounces elements within the White House he perceives as encouraging white supremacist ideology.
"Mooch" may be a bit of a douche, but he showed here that he has a good sense of humor and is, like Roger Stone, fun to be around.  As for Bannon being out by the end of the week, that happened as CNN reported yesterday Trump fires Steve Bannon.

President Trump has fired chief strategist Steve Bannon. Sources tell CNN that Bannon's exit had been in the works for two weeks. CNN's Joe Johns reports.
Good riddance for all the reasons mentioned in all three videos and then some.  I'm glad Scaramucci got his wish.  That written, I'm not done with Bannon, as he is guaranteed to be even more vocal at Breitbart and also plays a tangential role in an upcoming post.  Stay tuned.

*Maybe next year, when August might return to being a slow news month.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Kid Rock for Senate?

Kevin Robbins of Hometown U.S.A. and I had this enchange in the comments to Entertainers and sports organizations condemn Charlottesville violence and trademark infringement.
[Kevin:] I trust Senator Stabenow will chew up and spit out little bits of Kid Rock next year. The Republican primary, presuming there is one, should be a show for the ages.

[Me:] Me, too. Thanks for mentioning that. I really have been neglecting a big story in my own backyard. I'll have to remedy that in the near future.
It turns out I have been ignoring this story for longer than I thought.  Nearly six months ago, Stephen Colbert observed If 'President Trump' Is Hard To Say, Try 'Senator Kid Rock'.

Kid Rock is running for Senate in Michigan, and there's only one man standing in his way.
LOL!  Unfortunately for Kid Rock, his primary opponent won't be the fictional Shrieking Joe.  They're the very real Bloomfield Hills businesswoman Lena Epstein, who was Michigan co-chair for Trump, and retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Young.  In addition, businessman and Iraq War veteran John James of Farmington Hills has formed an exploratory committee, as The Detroit News reported.  Follow over the jump for my analysis of that field.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

'Riverdale' leads television shows with seven Teen Choice Awards

Yesterday was my time to feature the movie winners at the Teen Choice Awards.  Today, as I promised yesterday and teased weeks before then, it's time for me to report on the television winners.  I begin with the cast of "Riverdale" accepting the surfboard for Choice Drama TV Show.

We're HYPED that Riverdale won Choice Drama TV show! Share to show your love!
"Riverdale" was the most honored show last Sunday, earning seven surfboards, two more than "Beauty and the Beast" did in the movie categories.  The video listed them, but here they are again from Deadline Hollywood along with my reactions: Choice Drama TV Show, Choice Drama TV Actor for Cole Sprouse as Jughead (K.J. Apa as Archie was nominated for Choice Breakout TV Star), Choice Breakout TV Show, Choice Breakout TV Star for Lili Reinhart (But Apa didn't win, Reinhart's Betty did), Choice TV Ship for Sprouse and Reinhart (as I wrote last month about the nominees, "Betty and Jughead?  Betty and Veronica are supposed to fight over Archie with Reggie trying to date the loser, while Jughead sits on the sideline"), Choice Hissy Fit for Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossum, and Choice Scene Stealer for Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge.  Wow!  Between winning Best Action/Thriller TV Series at the Saturn Awards and all these awards won here, I think I really should watch "'Archie' pretending to be 'Twin Peaks,'" even if or maybe because it's such an odd interpretation of "Archie."

Did I call these wins?  Mostly no, even though I was rooting for "Riverdale" in most categories.  I thought "Pretty Little Liars" would win Choice Drama TV Show, even though I noted "Riverdale" was getting a big push from either the studio or the network (that may be a distinction without a difference, as the studio is Warner Brothers, half-owner of The CW) and that I'd have voted for if I could have (I missed the deadline).  I also thought Ian Harding from "Pretty Little Liars" would win, too, but would have voted for Cole Sprouse if I could.  On the other hand, I voted for "Stranger Things" to win Choice Breakout TV Show, but expected "Riverdale" to win.  I also voted for Millie Bobbie Brown to win Choice Breakout TV Star, but expected K.J. Apa to win.  Neither happened, but at least it was a "Riverdale" star.  I expected "Bughead" to win and it did.  Finally, I didn't even come close with Choice Hissy Fit (I thought it would go to Luke Evans' Gaston) or Choice Scene Stealer (I voted for Michael Roker, then noticed Colin O'Donoghue as Killian "Captain Hook" Jones from "Once Upon a Time" on the ballot and switched my vote on the second day).  Two-and-one-half out of seven is not good prognosticating, but the actual results were more to my liking.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the television winners.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

'Beauty and the Beast' the big winner at the Teen Choice Awards as speculative fiction dominates the movie categories

After teasing my readers multiple times, I'm finally getting around to the winners of the Teen Choice Awards.  Today, I'm writing about the movie winners, which, as Deadline Hollywood reports, were dominated by speculative fiction films.

The big winner was "Beauty and the Beast" with five awards, Choice Fantasy Film, Choice Fantasy Movie Actress for Emma Watson, Choice Movie Villain for Luke Evans, and Choice Movie Ship and Choice Liplock for Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.  This result actually yielded fewer awards than I expected the box office leader for 2017 to achieve, as I predicted a "Beauty and the Beast" sweep of all nominated categories, which would have given the live-action remake of the animated film seven awards.  The categories it lost were Choice Fantasy Movie Actor, which went to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for his role in "Moana," and Choice Hissy Fit, earned by Madelaine Petsch of "Riverdale."  I did predict that The Rock would win a movie award, just not this one.  Still, I'm happy about it.  As for "Riverdale" upsetting "Beauty and the Beast," I'll have more about that when I write about the television awards.

Three of the surfboards for "Beauty and the Beast" were earned in whole or in part by Emma Watson, Choice Fantasy Movie Actress, Choice Movie Ship, and Choice Liplock.  She won a fourth for Choice Drama Actress in "The Circle."  I'm pretty sure that means she won more awards than any other film or TV performer.  Congratulations!  As for "The Circle," I ignored it other than noting that Watson was in it, but it turns out that it's a thriller set twenty minutes into the future, which means it also qualifies as a science fiction movie, which IMDB considers it to be.  That means that only three surfboards for movie categories went out to films that were not speculative ficion, Choice Drama to "Everything, Everything" (I called that), Choice Drama Movie Actor to Kian Lawley for "Before I Fall" (I missed that one), and Zak Efron for "Baywatch" (I thought the other nominee from "Baywatch" would win).  That's actually one fewer than I expected, as my weak prediction was for Amandla Stenberg to win for her role in "Everything, Everything" instead of Watson.  This is one case where I am happy to be wrong.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the movie awards, including Action, Sci-Fi, and Summer Movie.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Colbert on the nuclear crisis with North Korea

Besides Charlottesville, the other big story  over the weekend was the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.  I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle what I wrote on my Dreamwidth account for Presidential Joke Day.
I'm posting about National Presidential Joke Day both here and at Crazy Eddie's Motie News. There, the post was SNL mocks Trump for Presidential Joke Day. Here, it's Colbert saying Stephen Doesn't Want The Earth To Blow Up.

As a homeowner and inhabitant of the planet, Stephen is really hoping Earth continues to be.
Doomer though I am, I'm with Colbert. I may repost this at Crazy Eddie's Motie News on Tuesday, after I post the worksheet for "Treasures of the Earth: Power" that I promised to post three weeks ago, the winners for Dramatic Presentation at the Hugo Awards, and the winners of the Teen Choice Awards.
Posted here as promised along with the first two on the list.  The Teen Choice Award winners may take a little longer.  Stay tuned.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Entertainers and sports organizations condemn Charlottesville violence and trademark infringement

I promised I'd write about the winners of the Teen Choice Awards today.  That's not happening, but I do have a report from the red carpet of the Teen Choice Awards: Teen Choice stars react to 'heartbreaking' Charlottesville events by the Associated Press.*

Yara Shahidi, Ashleigh Murray, Gigi Gorgeous and Grant Gustin react to the violent events in Charlottesville, as they arrive for the Teen Choice Awards.
I found Shahidi and Murray to be very articulate and insightful about the event, while Gorgeous was merely adequate and Gustin a bit disappointing, if properly appalled.  Then again, his character Barry Allen never fought Nazis during the Golden Age; that was the province of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash.  If John Wesley Shipp, who plays Garrick on "The Flash," had made such an inarticulate response, I'd have been really disappointed.

Moving from entertainment to sports and from national to local, WXYZ reports on the Weimar moment in Charlottesville in Detroit Red Wings condemn use of logo during white nationalist rally.

The Detroit Red Wings are condemning the use of the team's logo by white nationalists during a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday.
I hope the Red Wings and NFL find the person responsible for infringing on the logo and punish him to the full extent allowed under civil law, which means (probably) he will be bankrupted.  That's a small thing compared to the one death and 19 injuries, but it will be something.  Speaking of which, WXYZ has more on the vehicle (murder weapon) in How metro Detroit is connected to deadly white nationalist rally in Vi[r]ginia.

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that is being linked to three deaths has two metro Detroit connections. A woman from Canton Was at the rally this afternoon an[d] captured video of the crash on Facebook Live, moments after the car ran into protestors.
Yes, the car used to belong to someone in Michigan.  If the Detroit media find any connection to Detroit or Michigan in a story, they'll promote it.  At least the former owner is not responsible, while the driver is from over the state line in Toledo, Ohio.

Finally, I called the incident a Weimar moment earlier.  That's because it's another step up in violence from 1968 has arrived with a Weimar moment in San Jose.  There, the political violence was relatively disorganized, partisan mob on partisan mob.  Here, the organized attacks and counter-attacks and the first stage of uniformed political militias (logos on shields passed out to the alt-right demonstrators, along with helmets and batons) reached the stage I first described in The torches and pitchforks came out for Trump last night, complete with actual Nazis.
The protests and the conflict afterward stuck me as just one step short of Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold fighting with the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten during the Weimar Republic.
The counter-protesters weren't that organized, but they were more organized and ready for violence than I had seen them since Trump declared he was running.  I think we've gone beyond 1968 to something the U.S. hasn't seen since the Silver Shirts were active in the 1930s.  That's frightening.

ETA: It's not just the Red Wings and NHL objecting to the misuse of their images and products by the alt-right.  Now The Hill reports Tiki brand denounces use of torches by white supremacists.

*I'll post the winners later this week, perhaps beginning as soon as tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

'Arrival' and 'The Expanse' win Best Dramatic Presentation at the Hugo Awards

Today, I'm fulfilling the second promise I made at the end of SNL mocks Trump for Presidential Joke Day, "stay tuned for...the winners for Dramatic Presentation at the Hugo Awards."*  Tor.com has announced the winners of all the Hugo Awards, so it's time to check my prediction that "I think "Arrival" will win this category in a walk."  It did.  Eric Heisserer can put the rocket for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) next to his Saturn Award for Best Film Screenplay and the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation.  Congratulations!  The best science fiction film of last year really did win, the Saturn Award for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" notwithstanding.

It turns out that I didn't make a prediction for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form); I was too busy whining that "Westworld" wasn't nominated.  It turned out that the episode I proposed, "The Bicameral Mind," didn't qualify.  It has a running time of 90 minutes, which meant it qualified for the long form category, not the short form.  "The Original" would have qualified at 68 minutes, but it wasn't nominated.  Darn.  I reacted by deciding to promoting "Westworld" at the 2017 Saturn Awards.  It worked, as it won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Television Series.

As for what I would have predicted in April, it would have been “Black Mirror: 'San Junipero'” or “Doctor Who: 'The Return of Doctor Mysterio.'”  However, if I were voting, it would have been for "The Expanse: 'Leviathan Wakes.'"  Much to my pleasant surprise, it won.  Congratulations!  My favorite of all the nominees won!

It turns out that it was the second time for this story at the Hugo Awards.  The book "Leviathan Wakes" was nominated for Best Novel in 2012 but didn't win.  Looks like being turned into a television show helped it the second time around.

As for the rest of the nominees, it looks like the insurgency posed by the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies is over, as none of their nominees won (again) and most of the slate didn't even get nominated.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that these people, like the Gamergators, have become more active outside of fandom.  Ugh.

*The first I satisfied by posting Worksheet for 'Treasures of the Earth: Power'.  The third will be about the winners of the Teen Choice Awards.  Stay tuned.